I’ve seen it happen a few times and I’ve heard stories of many other instances. Every once in a while, a brand initiates an RFP only to hijack ideas from agencies without any plans to ever hire one of the them or pay them for their ideas.
New business is one of the life bloods of agency folks, so we get excited at the opportunity to pitch a new client. But the RFP process is a very vulnerable time for agencies.
People – junior, mid-level and senior – spend hours pouring through research and background info to develop a killer strategy and rock solid tactics. And they do this on top of their current client work, which means they’re giving up evenings and, often times, weekends for the pitch.
Sure it sucks to lose a pitch after all the hard work that goes into it. But that’s part of life. Having your ideas stolen, though, is ridiculous. Whether the culprit *suddenly* realizes it loves the incumbent agency it spoke so harshly about during the entire process or slinks away without hiring any of the agencies in review and cherry picks from the spectrum of free ideas to execute in house, it’s unethical.
It also completely disrespects the true value of both creative ideas and the time and sacrifice of developing those ideas.
Older colleagues have always just shrugged their shoulders and said something like, “that’s the risk you take with new business” when I’ve asked about it. Is that an acceptable answer? Can anything be done to limit this practice?
Here are a few ideas:
- Agencies that make it to the final rounds of a pitch get a flat fee as compensation for their ideas.
- If a brand doesn’t choose an agency, but likes a particular idea it presented, it could compensate the agency by providing some fees for the idea.
- Create a public blacklist of brands who have hijacked ideas. The list would be governed by a third party – say PRSA, for example – that would investigate and confirm the claim before posting.
Of course the last option is a bit dangerous. I doubt I’d actually vote for that one. But I do think this is something we shouldn’t just shrug our shoulders about any more, especially given the current economic state and the fact that more brands are cutting back on marketing budgets. Those circumstances increase the likelihood that a few misfits will venture down the path of looking to get more for less – or for free.
Would any of those ideas help? Do you have a suggestion to toss in the pot?
*Image by Saxon Moseley.